Dorian O’Daniel admitted he has never had more fun on a football field than he did on Saturday night in Death Valley, and it’s easy to see why.
The senior linebacker logged a career-high 14 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry in second-ranked Clemson’s 14-6 victory over then-No. 13 Auburn.
“I was talking to my family and some of my teammates, even during the game, like I’m enjoying going out there and playing on defense,” O’Daniel said on Monday. “I’m not saying that I haven’t had fun other games, but just an atmosphere and environment like that, such a close game, that’s what college football is all about.”
O’Daniel doesn’t have to wait long to experience another high-energy environment. However, he and the Tigers will be on the flip side of things when the play No. 14 Louisville on the road this Saturday in a nationally televised primetime matchup.
A week after limiting talented Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham to 79 passing yards, Clemson’s defense will try to conquer the challenge of facing reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and a Louisville offense that is averaging 41 points per game and ranks fifth nationally in yards per game (615) heading into Week 3.
“They’re tough, they’re fast, they’re physical and it’s so early, so it should be a good matchup to see how we compete against them,” O’Daniel said.
As a sophomore in 2016, Jackson became just the third player in FBS history to record 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in the same season. He threw for 3,543 yards, rushed for 1,571 yards and set the ACC record for touchdowns responsible (51).
Jackson has picked up right where he left off thus far this season, accounting for 1,010 yards of total offense and eight total touchdowns through two games. He passed for three touchdowns, rushed for three more scores and had 525 total yards in Louisville’s win at North Carolina last Saturday.
“We just know he is a really good quarterback and he can do a lot of different things with the football,” O’Daniel said, “so we have to respect his game and not take it for granted.”
Fortunately for the Tigers, they have a good idea of what to expect from Jackson. Seven of the starters on this season’s defense played against Jackson a year ago, when Clemson edged Louisville 42-36 in Death Valley thanks to Marcus Edmond’s game-clinching stop on a Cardinal wideout 1 yard shy of a first down on their final offensive play.
Jackson finished that game with 162 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns on 31 carries. He also had 295 yards passing with one passing touchdown and an interception.
O’Daniel knows Jackson is capable of doing things from the quarterback position that most of his peers at the college level aren’t.
“He was able to compete at such a high level and make guys miss, not go down on first contact,” O’Daneil said. “He made plays on scrambles and makes plays that just shouldn’t be made, to be honest.”
Jackson puts a lot of stress on and presents a unique challenge for opposing defenses, but it’s a challenge that Clemson’s defense is excited to take on.
“I do feel like Lamar Jackson presents another challenge as far as being able to pull the ball down and run, get outside, break contain, run up the middle, zone reads,” O’Daniel said. “It definitely presents another challenge, but that’s what college football is about is competing at a high level against good teams, so we’re looking forward to it.”
—Photo Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports